The reported development comes amid heightened tensions in the Middle East as the United States and its regional allies have accused Iran of orchestrating an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier this week. Tehran has strongly rejected the allegations as unfounded.

The Royal Marines are being deployed to the Gulf of Oman following an incident, in which two oil tankers were targeted near the Strait of Hormuz on 13 June, causing explosions and a fire on at least one of them, the Daily Star reported, citing unnamed sources.

The troops will purportedly be tasked with keeping British vessels safe, using equipment to search the open sea for “fast Iranian attack craft” and “terminate” them if deemed necessary.

“We have had marines in the region on anti-piracy and counter-terrorist operations for some time. If the current situation escalates I expect we will see more personnel deployed to bolster the operation”, the source was quoted as saying.

According to the UK tabloid, the marines will be equipped with sniper rifles and light machine guns, but they have been instructed to use them only as a last resort.

An estimated 120 specialist troops from 42 Commando, a subordinate unit within the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade, are heading Bahrain as part of what has been dubbed Special Purpose Task Group 19, the Daily Star claimed.

The Defence Ministry has not commented on the reports so far.

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